A new study done by Dr. Bento Lobo, head of the Department of Finance and Economics at Rollins College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has been released. It shows the benefits to the Chattanooga area as a result of the smart grid and fiber optics network that was installed in 2010. At the monthly meeting of the EPB board of directors, President and CEO David Wade shared some of the highlights of the report.
When the new systems were first being considered, said Mr.
Wade, and a decision was made to move forward, three business plans were done. The first identified the volume that would be needed to support the investment. This was determined to be 30,000 connections. Today, there are 118,000 fiber customers.
The second plan defined the impact that improvements to the electric system would have. The determination was that there would be a 40 percent improvement to reliability. The actual figures today show there have been 40-55 percent fewer outages and they are shorter in duration.
The third business plan stated the mission to improve quality of life and benefits for EPB customers which estimated there would be a $600 million benefit over a 10-year period. The new study shows the actual benefit of the smart grid and fiber system to be $2.69 billion, five times the original projection.
Some of the things that led to the conclusions of the study included:
· 9516 jobs are directly supported
· The entrepreneur system in the area has benefited from $244 million in investments due to the fiber optics infrastructure
· Power outages have been reduced. Documentation shows a 40-55 percent improvement in reliability, resulting in savings of over $26 million each year
· There has been a positive environmental impact with the thousands of miles eliminated because of the use of fewer trucks. This has reduced 7,900 tons of carbon emissions
· Over $110 million has been invested in research in the community. EPB has partnered with Oak Ridge national Laboratory among other research partners
· About $20 million is paid each year to the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County in the form of payments in lieu of taxes. This number is $59 million greater since 2010 if the investment had not been made for the smart grid and fiber optics systems
The great thing, said Mr. Wade, is that this is not the end. "Our fiber optics has the ability to support increases in traffic."
Some recent increased use has been due to ED Connect; the program that was started to make sure the entire community has access to high-speed broad band regardless of their financial status. It has now been installed in 7,100 homes which is impacting 12,000 students. Increases in these numbers are expected. “Use of our fiber network is only going to get bigger and bigger,” said Mr. Wade.
Another increase has been seen in the use of telehealth appointments which has seen a rise from one percent to 50 percent. This is another use that requires reliable band width, and there are still opportunities ahead of us for making things better, said Mr. Wade.
Other analyses have shown that four of 10 people “drop off” if a page fails to load in three seconds. And delays to load is shown to reduce sales. People now expect instantaneous response. According to Amazon, a one-second delay affects sales by $1.6 billion.
A link to this study will be made available to the public on the EPB website.